Thinking Together is a discourse format dedicated to exploring the phenomenon of time in its socio-political, philosophical and artistic dimensions. It provides a space for transdisciplinary exchange, collective learning and unlearning. Freely accessible, the project is a contact zone between audiences, festival artists and international guests. Journalist and writer Amber Grünhäuser visits this year’s edition of the discourse format at MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues and gives an insight into her personal impressions on our blog.

“Time Wars” offers reflections on the complex, diverse and divergent temporalities of our time – a time of layered temporal haunting, insecurity, and surprisingly one of promise. How do we come to terms with acute self-awareness (and self-loathing) in this time of the Anthropocene, neo-liberalism, the war machine, nationalism, mass migration, climate change, cyber insecurity, apocalyptic imaginings, and future transitions? How do we negotiate this rapidly accelerating, overwhelming and frightening time in a meaningful way? “Don’t Panic” we are reassured. Thinking Together is a good place to start … and time is very much of the essence.

Contemporary context reveals many perspectives of time: from the subjective to the regulated, governed, oppressive, the restrictive, unforgiving, fractured, the inconceivable, subversive, liberating and not to forget playful and the shifting.

Mass migration both forced and voluntary is very much of our time. We explore “Living in the Temporary” where suspension of time occurs through displacement and exile. Refugees search for familiar reference points in unfamiliar terrain amid the uncertainty of a state of the continual temporary with no specified end date. Long-term suspension of time and spatial orientation on a folk and the individual through war, displacement and exile is massively disruptive and destructive but hope can be found in individual and collective agency, which can even temporarily erase boarders.

Thoughts on the continual temporary lead us to the search for humanity in the machine and the relentless and never ending pursuit of the next soon-to-be obsolete technologies. In “The Planetary Test” otherwise known as “Demo or Die” we are reminded that “smart” explorations and “responsive environments” are experiments, test-beds that don’t necessarily predict stable, habitable or likeable outcomes. In “The Sliding Moment: Cybersecurity and the Politics of Time” big data, large-scale interconnectivity and sweeping mass vulnerabilities come to the fore. Here we see public discourse easily thwarted and subverted by way of meddling, fake news, bots, data harvesting and analytics: think Cambridge Analytica. Cybersecurity policy in its rush to strike back on the offensive may lead to problematic, shortsighted policy, a denigration of civil liberties and power placed in intelligence communities. It is no wonder that the perpetual now, light distractions and instant gratifications such as social media diversions consume. We may not find humanity in machines even in those that “sense” and we are urged not to leave important decision making to algorithms.

Where does this all fit in broader context? That brings us to the capital war machine. The cycle of war and peace that was replaced by war and revolution has since been replaced by the war of the government and the governed. Maurizio Lazzarato says we need to drop the idea that we are living in a period of peace and consider the new ways war has emerged since the 2008 crisis. We presently live in the war of capital, in its victories.

Before you despair. Please remember that temporalities are not only governed by dominant or negative forces but “generative flourishes” of rupture, transition, resilience and agency abound. Systemic cracks are indeed showing. It is high time for large-scale political and theoretical rupture. As discussed, we need to look at apocalyptic imaginings not as an endpoint in time but one of transition into a new political and social order. It is time to jump into the radical not knowing, to rethink and reimagine a collective and just way forward. We are urged not to lose democratic oversight and accountability no matter how fast we proceed. But to take the time: thinking time, thinking together, co-presence to form long-term strategies for these urgent times.